No Deal! Guidelines to Selecting the Right Vendor

“Unfortunately, we cannot do business together. Good luck!”. I found myself saying this too frequently lately to prospects that were focused on cost alone or were looking for a consulting company to be a 2nd level (or worse) subcontractor for the end customer (that is not even theirs!). What happened in the marketplace that appreciation to quality consulting and workmanship deteriorated so badly?

If you are a business owner or working with/for IT in any size organization, you cannot help but run into consulting needs. There is simply too much to learn and too much to do for any organization to be able to do it all well on its own. This is why there are consulting companies like Eccella. We specialize in certain aspects of Data Management and Data Analytics that help organizations become data driven. We don’t do everything under the sun, but what we do, we do very well, and any work we take on, we make sure to deliver in the best way possible no matter what the cost is to us. Our customers can sleep well at night knowing they put their money on a winning horse.

But that is often not the case when very large organizations and public sector companies contract work out and have preferred partners of choice that have been used for many years. Bureaucracy and ineffectiveness are so ingrained in some of these consulting companies that there is no regard or appreciation for quality anymore. The number of times I get contacted by some random guy asking me to give him a couple of guys to “do ETL”, “configure B2B”, “help his team install”, etc, without even checking the credential of what my team can do is just mindboggling. If I dare to ask questions like “why is this being built?”, “who is this for?”, “what problem are you trying to solve?”, “what exactly would you expect my team to be doing?”, I get the most meaningless answers or I’m just asked to quote a “ballpark price”. These random guys could be part of a large organization looking to hire the cheapest option out there regardless of quality, or of a consulting company that already won the project (which they had no business in winning) but have no capacity or skills to deliver, so they are looking to sub-contract it to someone that can.

As a business owner, consumer of consultation services, and a principal in a consulting company, I just find that to be amazing. Nowhere else will you find this type of consumer behavior. Will you go to your car repair shop and ask them to put in the cheapest breaks possible? Similarly, would you be ok sending your kids to the best college possible, only to find out that the college outsources the teaching to the local kindergarten teachers? If you are not nodding your head in agreement right now then I am sorry, but we will never do business together. Thanks for reading so far.

Why would anyone consciously put their organization, therefore themselves, at risk by seeking service from the wrong service provider?

Is my organization perfect and free of mistakes and issues on every project? Absolutely not, and any consulting company that claims to be 100% error-free is misleading its customers or has not been in existence long enough. What uniquely identifies us and companies like us is our pursuit of a successful result –  in the eyes of our customers, not our own. Being relatively small in size gives our customers and consultants the capacity to get immediate assistance from our broader team, commit non-billable resources for resolution to correct any wrongdoing, and turn around a risky situation into just a small bump in the road. We also pride ourselves in customer-provider collaboration -  full transparency and visibility into our operation - so that there are no surprises or insecurities about what it is that we are doing at any given point. For example, right now we give customers direct access to our operational, project management, collaboration and financial systems. We constantly improve our transparency across the board and plan to share even more information in the near future.

If you ever consider hiring a consulting company, please don’t just consider value, risk and total cost of implementation, but also what that company can gain, or lose, from working with you. Here are some points for you to consider:

  1. See if the company you are looking to hire can clearly articulate why you should hire them and not others. Companies claiming to have the best people, methodology and products are dime a dozen. Ask for proof, talk to other customers of theirs.

  2. Get multiple offers if possible and let the different companies know they will need to provide a competitive bid. If you see one company dropping their rates to the floor when facing competition, be wary. Driving prices down means lower quality resources.

  3. Ask to get visibility into the implementation team. Check that you are not getting 2nd or 3rd level subbing resources.

  4. Be aware of cookie cutter proposals without a specific anchor to your needs. Some consulting companies wouldn’t even bother understanding your exact needs before providing a proposal.

  5. If you have the option, choose time and material with a not-to-exceed option over fixed bid. Consulting companies live on margins and when facing fixed bid, some will try and lower costs by reducing quality of resources and under-investing in different tasks.

  6. Know how to differentiate between the people that are selling you and the people that will deliver for you. Good sales person, doesn’t mean impressive implementations team. Some companies put forth an impressive sales person or an architect backed up by a sub par implementation team to lure you into a deal.

  7. Hire another consulting firm just to do regular audits. It might cost you a little more, but will keep your primary choice on their toes.

  8. If your scope is contained and well defined, choose a smaller firm if they have the capacity. Smaller consulting companies have more to lose when things don’t go according to plan.

  9. Look to create a partner relationship with the consulting company and don’t treat them as a body shop. A true partnership is more beneficial for both of you.

Meitav Harpaz is the CEO of Eccella Corporation with 15+ years experience in Data Management and Business Intelligence, most of which in consulting. Eccella is a boutique Data Management and Analytics consulting company that’s disruptive in how it operates and partners with customers.